submitted by Blair Dancy
What are you doing about mosquitoes in your yard? Ever think you could do more, without resorting to explosives and cyanide? You’d be right!
Many of our neighborhoods have the dreaded “Asian tiger” mosquito, breeding happily in small pools of stagnant water. I could bore with you nasty details about the Asian tiger—how it’s only been in the U.S. since 1985, but has spread like wildfire east of the Rockies; how it’s so aggressive that it displaces our lazier, indigenous mosquitoes; how it’s spreading dengue fever in Latin America.
But instead, I’ll tell you how to keep your mosquito population to a minimum. The first thing to know is the life cycle of a mosquito: egg, larvae, pupae, and the dreaded adult.
This month, we’ll focus on the eggs. (No eggs, no adults.)
To beat a blood sucker, you’ve got to think like a blood sucker. So, if you were an expecting mosquito momma, where would you like to lay eggs? Let the question sink in before you answer. Think, think, think.
That’s right! You need water. The Asian tiger does not lay them on the water, but right near it, where they’ll get wet during the next rain or sprinkler rotation. (Other species lay them in rafts, on the water, but we’re focused on the Asian tiger.)
What’s better than water? Fermenting leaves, like the ones you’ve left in your bushes since the day you bought your house in the 1980s. The best egg-laying sites for the Asian tiger are like your dorm room in college, with a combination of shade, stagnant water in a small, dark area, mosquito larvae already living in the water, and rotting leaves. (Where exactly did you go to school anyway?)
To get rid of these marvelous egg-laying sites, first identify them: Bird baths, pet dishes, overflow dishes for potted plants—be sure to look under your deck as well for the errant can or Frisbee. The worst culprits include leaf-glutted gutters (which may empty directly into rain barrels—ah, do those skeeters have it good!) and tree holes that collect water when it rains.
The obvious problems are easy to solve, though sometimes time consuming with all the leaf removal (use fresh mulch for your beds, if you can). The harder ones include tree holes. You can distinguish tree holes that hold squirrels and birds from ones that hold water (and are therefore potential breeding sites) by water stains running down the tree. You might consider filling your tree hole with sand and capping it with cement, but CHECK WITH YOUR ARBORIST FIRST to be sure you don’t hurt the tree.
In addition to getting rid of breeding sites, the Mosquito Swallow (www.MosquitoSwallow.com) imitates breeding sites. Adults in your yard will leave their eggs in the trap rather than returning to your neighbor’s tree hole or gutter.
Remember that as the days grow shorter, the egg casings get thicker. By the time winter hits, the eggs are ready for the cold while the adults die off. If you clean up your leaves in the winter but before spring hits, you may get rid of a lot of those eggs well before mosquito season comes.
There, that’s it for this month. Did you feel your mosquito IQ shoot up? (Or is that feeling actually the pang of guilt for being such a friend to mosquitoes all these years?) Next issue, we’ll deal with the wigglers and tumblers, a.k.a. larvae and pupae.